The breakwater at Port Macquarie carries a thousand memorials graffitied onto the chunks of granite stretching out into the waves of the Pacific. Ordinary folk - families, schoolies, footy teams, mates, poets, artists, jokers and the bereaved have all enshrined a tiny fragment of their lives there. When I walk along reading the randomly jumbled text, I think ‘this is an authentically Australian story.’
There’s a solitary figure sitting on a wharf timber at the Western end. The curious pause to read and discover it’s Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister, holding the Constitution he helped draft. Some sit beside him for a selfie before heading off for fish and chips.
I see another splinter of our Australian story. I read that around the birth of our modern nation in 1900, Barton said boldly, ‘God means to give us this federation’. Why would he say that?
Caring for the sick and dying has been a long and honourable Christian tradition. I’m proud of the fact that my own family have played their own small part in carrying on this ministry of compassion here in Australia.
LISTEN as Paul tells of this chain of mercy.
Well, it’s been a long road to get there but the Olympics are just about to start in Tokyo. I thought I’d share a couple of stories I’ve been researching about two of our own Olympic medallists. However they both share the discovery that all that glitters is not gold.
WATCH as Paul shares these stories from his office desk.
We have been gifted some excellent resources in recent times by some dedicated researchers. Only a small number are going to read the thousands of pages of stories. These carefully collected narratives could lie idle on bookshelves and gather dust or people like you could take them and put them to work in the marketplace.
There is a big job to do. Greg Sheridan wrote in his book God is Good For You, ‘The sense of Christianity in education has become cockeyed, unbalanced, inaccurately hostile.’ It’s urgent that we get stuck in to set the story straight. We need creative storytellers to love the stories, who will make them jump up and live in public imagination. Good storytelling and good stories can counter the wave of negativity towards the faith that has been the backbone of our country. The tools are in your hands. READ MORE to see a list of good resources.
I remember being stirred as I swung down the main street of Broken Hill, marching behind a Scottish Pipe Band. Was it the Baird in me that surfaced with the skirl of the bagpipes that day? Traditionally the Bairds were bards - travelling storytellers who wove wondrous tales, repeated age old myths and told gospel stories among the scattered dwellings of my ancestors. It was a noble calling because their Celtic songs were the music of the Scottish heart. READ MORE …
On my first visit to Kendall on the NSW North coast I was startled to see the way a local sculptor had included the tiny town as part of God’s grand narrative. It reminded me that the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life remembered how he lifted the stories of nobodies to new heights. I’ve always been struck by the remarkable fact that ordinary fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James and John have loaned their names and their biographies to millions around the world, just because they followed him. And nowhere-towns like Bethlehem and Nazareth have become the destination for millions of pilgrims, simply because he made their story part of his. Small towns can house big stories.
On the NSW North-Coast, in the sleepy little town of Kendall, a solitary ANZAC soldier stands sentinel over the memory of some local lads. They were husky young men, familiar with challenges - axemen, sleeper cutters, bullockies and drovers. Following the declaration of war in 1914, they marched away down the hill, through the gums, crossed an ocean and found themselves half a world away, caught up in a massive conflict they knew little about.
Would you believe Caleb Crush comes from sugar cane country around Bundaberg? He’s a young farmer with a vision to build something significant on his property - something that will build community and strengthen faith in rural Australia. At a time when it seems churches are closing and congregations are ageing, it's refreshing to meet a strong, young man ready to put his energies into creating spiritual life as well as growing crops.
Most Australians would be surprised to discover that Jesus played a bigger part in the early Union movement than Karl Marx. William Spence, the ex-miner who travelled the backcountry persuading shearers to join the Union in the 1890’s was not only a brilliant organiser of men, but also a respected preacher. He pioneered the Labor Party driven by his conviction that Jesus should be met in the workplace as well as in the church.
WATCH as Paul tells more of this story.
In the years we lived in Bourke, we often heard warm praise from the locals for the Bush Brothers. They were an Anglican order, begun around 1900, which mobilised young men from Oxford University to tackle the tyranny of distance in the Outback. The first Australian recruit, 21 year old John Dent Martyn, caught my attention with his enthusiasm.
READ and LISTEN as Paul tells something of Brother John's story.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.